A show celebrates Julia Child, complete with chocolate cake

It seems Julia Child is always having a moment — even on Vashon Island.

Editor’s note: The print version of this article stated its originally planned date of performance as Sept. 16. After press time, the show was postponed to a cast illness and it will now be presented on Sunday, Oct. 23.

It seems Julia Child is always having a moment — even on Vashon Island.

On Sunday, Oct. 23, Vashon Center for the Arts (VCA), continuing its quest to bring intimate gems to the community, will stage “Bon Appetit! The Julia Child Operetta,” at the Kay White Hall.

The hour-long performance is headlined by Pacific Northwest favorite Anne Allgood.

It also features Child’s great-niece, Julia Prud’homme, who anchors the delightfully over-the-top operetta with remembrances of her great-aunt and Child’s oft-overlooked husband, Paul Child.

The show is in an unusual musical-cum-monologue format that director Jane Kaplan first adapted with Prud’homme when she brought the stand-alone operetta to Seattle in the late 1990s.

Prud’homme describes Kaplan’s curatorial insights as critical to the process of binding together memoir and operetta.

“I ended up writing down a bunch of stories, with a loose narrative to connect to them, and that became the base that we worked from,” she said. “Jane was expert in helping to highlight the good bits, cut away the dross, and tighten the overall narrative.”

The performance is a return to Vashon for Seattleite Prud’homme, whose last creative outing on the island included performances as a horse, tree, and singer in 2019’s frenetic “14/48” project at Open Space for the Arts.

“I find Vashon to be a really exciting place for the arts,” she said. “The performance spaces you have are incredible. UMO Ensemble has been famous in the theater scene forever …. Vashon Rep, Drama Dock, Take a Stand Theatre, and there are probably more that I am not mentioning — it feels so vibrant.”

Acclaimed local musician Mark Anders will masterfully accompany “Bon Apetit,” taking musical comedic timing to new heights and perfectly complementing Allgood’s homage to Child’s unmistakable joie-de-vivre.

Allgood is only the latest in a notable lineup to pay homage; everyone’s got a take on Child, from easy-to-imagine Jean Stapleton, for whom the operetta was initially written, to Dan Akroyd’s iconic Saturday Night Live send-up, and most recently lauded British actress Sarah Lancashire’s serious treatment in HBO’s series “Julia.”

Prud’homme credits Child for forging her own legend.

“She was such a character, and that really was her, that really was her voice, and I can tell you that she genuinely had as much enthusiasm in real life as she did in her shows,” Prud’homme said. “She was a positivist, always seeing the glass half full.”

Prud’homme also insists on recognizing Paul Child’s critical role as a man who was ahead of his time in wholly supporting his wife’s career.

“He was a Renaissance man,” she said. “He supported her going to Le Cordon Bleu when women students were considered a novelty. He supported her in writing her first cookbooks. And he didn’t have any ego problems about it. In her cookbooks, he took all of the photographs that you see, black and white photos of her hands tying up a chicken or making something. Paul took every one of those photos. In fact, it was his idea to do so, to show people how to do things.”

The man-behind-the-woman motif continues through Friday night’s performance: the libretto for “Bon Appétit!” was adapted by composer Lee Hoiby’s frequent collaborator and partner Mark Shulgasser.

The operetta premiered in 1989 at the Kennedy Center, starring Jean Stapleton, best known for her role as Edith Bunker in Norman Lear’s “All in the Family.”

“Bon Apetit!” ran successfully off-Broadway before it began a life on the road, staged for the past two decades in venues large and small across the country. It has intermittently been produced in Seattle, directed by Jane Kaplan at her theater, Rendezvous.

For these productions, Kaplan first approached Prud’homme about adding her first-person narrative — a process that was serendipitous and joyful as Child’s career, according to Prud’homme.

“I had been on the East Coast with my family for Thanksgiving,” she said. “A last-minute re-schedule put me on a plane to Washington DC, where I changed to Seattle. Once landed, I stood up to get my bag out of the overhead compartment and discovered Jane and her family seated directly behind me. We had been talking about meeting to discuss the operetta evening for years. Standing in line to exit the plane, we made a commitment to get together to discuss the project. We ended up using my stories as a kind of a framework, at the beginning and the end of the evening, like a nice frame around a beautiful painting.”

One more enticement to attend the show at VCA — the production has always ended with a serving of Child’s signature chocolate cake. At VCA, this tempting iteration will be lovingly presented to audience members by Vashon Baking Company.

Bon Apetit!

“Bon Apetit!” stars Anne Allgood as Julia Child and features Julia Prud’homme and Mark Anders. It will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, at VCA. Get tickets at vashoncenterforthearts.org.